Coffee [Up]Date

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how much I’ve missed this. The coffee and you. I’ve missed you. I’ve missed sitting down over coffee or a meal and discussing life and death and successes and failures. I have missed driving and warmth and friendship and the ruse that is happiness.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I haven’t given up. That I still plug along every day with the intention of moving in the right direction. But movement is slow and messy. The two steps forward three steps back thing has prevented me from getting to my goal as quickly as I would like, and I am frustrated.

If we were having coffee, we would discuss how frustration appears as red lines cracking through the grays of the moment. The color has drained, but I know it is still there. I can see it shining through the cracks.

If we were having coffee, I would listen to all that has changed in your life since we last spoke. I would listen for the moments that sparked joy and the issues that held you back. I would talk you through the sad times and wish for you a smooth road ahead.

If we were having coffee, we might discuss the light that shines through the dreariness of winter and reminds us of the hope and promise of spring. We might touch on the light that shines through the darkness of my mind and reminds me that the path I’m on, though not always easy or straight, is the right one. Definitely the right one.

If we were having coffee, I would ask you about your biggest fears. I would tell you about my children, and I would reveal that my biggest fears revolve around the fact that I want my children to be happy and fulfilled. And I often fret over whether I’ve done enough to set them on the path that will lead them in the right direction. How can a single parent ever do enough?

If we were having coffee, I would talk to you about some of my students. I would share stories about what these young adults have already accomplished. I would mention their ground-breaking achievements, their contributions to their community, their passion for helping others, and the struggles that have held them back from being even more amazing. I would tell you that these kids give me hope for the future, and that the world will be in good hands when this generation comes of age and begins to lead the world.

If we were having coffee, I might accidentally cry a bit, but I would tell you I was sorry for not holding myself together. Sometimes I feel missed opportunity as sharp rocks on the path of my journey. Sometimes I feel the happiness, the loneliness, and the joy so deeply that I cannot keep them contained in my body. They spill out of my eyes as warm tears and deep sobs. Sometimes. It doesn’t mean I am sorrowful or upset. It simply means I am still alive and experiencing the richness of life.

If we were having coffee, we would talk about storytelling and how important it is to tell stories for connection and vulnerability. I would encourage you to share your own story widely and in meaningful ways. I would remind you that you are unique and the world needs you. And I would let you know that I am here to listen any time you need me.

When we are done with our coffee and we are sweeping aside the crumbs of our chosen snack, I will be sure to tell you how much I enjoyed our time together. We might even set a date for our next coffee. Hopefully, it won’t be so long between coffee dates this time. After all, life is short and I’ve missed you.

Struggle

I am struggling to find something to write about, to find a topic that works, that fits with where my head is. I have been thinking and striving and trying for a while now, but for the life of me, I cannot come up with a topic that works. In fact, I’ve written several blog posts recently, but none is right to post, though I may come back to those someday. Who knows?

I know this is part of the process, this struggle and striving. Writing is not as easy as it seems. Sure, it seems like all I have to do is string a bunch of words together to make some sense of the world. Anyone can do that, right? But there are times—so many times—when there is just nothing. No light shines through the cracks in the walls as it usually does, bringing with it a flood of new ideas on which to focus. No light.

Just a dark silence that reverberates through my brain, voiding my imagination of all… well, imagination. My creativity needs a new igniter.

I know this is a temporary situation; I’ve been here many times before. And I also know that pushing through it to write something—anything—will help me begin to move beyond this creative vacuum more quickly.

And so, press on I do. I have written those several aforementioned blog posts that are too bad to share. I have written letters and freewrites and quotes that might make me think. And still, the struggle continues. Over the weekend, I will work on some writing exercises. Anything to get some ideas flowing. And who knows? One of these days, the floodgates of creativity may just give way to a fast and furious overflow of ideas.

{Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash}

Really Old

So… this evening, I worked late. I had to teach a workshop to a graduate class, and I had told my children—who are all still home for break—I wouldn’t be home for dinner. Since we have a fridge full of leftovers, I knew they wouldn’t have a problem finding something to eat. I walked in the door at 7:40, which spurred them to action on the dinner thing. While they heated up the food, I went upstairs to change into my pjs and get ready for bed.

When I came out of the bathroom, I could hear them talking about music and Metallica and how the band had been together forever—well, since 1981, anyway. My older son asked the younger, “Are they finished now?”

The younger son responded, “Nah, they’re never done.” Then he thought for a minute and changed his mind. “Well, they might be. They’re all really old now.”

The older brother asked, “How old are they? Like seventies?”

“No.” There was a brief pause. “They’re like Mom’s age,” came the response.

Oh dang! It’s always quite enlightening to get a glimpse of yourself through the eyes of your kids.

Giving presence

My most important lesson from 2019: be present.

In recent weeks, I have spent a great deal of time observing life around me and considering the manner in which many people function in their day to day lives. I have bumped into people who were not watching where they were going (or rather… they bumped into me). I have had to engage in evasive maneuvers to avoid people who were texting: texting and driving, texting and walking, texting and pushing a grocery cart, texting and living.

Texting and living. Is that what we want? Sorry, I didn’t hear you. [I was distracted by my phone]. No matter where we go—the grocery store, a restaurant, the movie theater—people are on their phones. It used to be we went out to dinner at a restaurant so we could socialize and talk to our friends—those at the table with us. Now, the people at the table are busy texting the people who aren’t at the table. Hey, where are you? Look at this great meal you are missing.

I missed seeing you score your goal, kiddo. [I was texting my friend]. If you are going to take the time to attend your child’s game or go to dinner with friends or venture out hiking or go anywhere, really, do those things fully. Be in the moment. Take in all that your surroundings have to offer—enjoy the sights and sounds, experience the joys, and make the memories. By paying attention to each of the five senses, you can lock in amazing memories that will remain with you forever. Believe it or not, your neighbor’s post on social media will still be there when you return to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter in an hour or two. As will your friend’s text.

Sorry… I just have to respond to this [text, email, FB post…]. Because somehow, it won’t be there later. The message here is that the person standing right in front of you is not as important as what’s happening on your phone—the people who are elsewhere in your life, but texting you. As someone who grew up in the era of landlines without call waiting or voicemail, I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that if someone wants to talk to you, they will wait for your response. Or they will text/call you again eventually. Why jump on each text, phone call, or post immediately? Our current world and technology have taught us that we can expect an immediate response. But why are we buying in to that?

Texting and living is not what I want for my life. My goal for 2020 is to take a lesson from the last weeks of 2019 and really work to be present in life. There is no better gift you can give to yourself and to those around you than to pay attention, listen, and be present for them.

{Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash}